How to Clean Hardwood Floors the Right Way

Make your hardwood floor gleam with these expert-approved tips—and learn how to prevent warping and scratching.

Whether you are cleaning your kitchen cabinets and counters or scrubbing your bathtub, you likely have methods for freshening up your home's most-touched surfaces down pat. But what about your floors? If you have hardwood flooring, you know the importance of regular maintenance—but wood can be finicky, and you don't want it to scratch or warp. To help, we asked experts to share how to clean hardwood floors and get them looking as good as new.

woman mopping living room with hard wood flooring

How Often You Should Clean Your Hardwood Floors

Cleaning your hardwood floors maintains their quality and overall appearance, says Mary Gagliardi, the Clorox in-house scientist and cleaning expert. A buildup of dirt and grime can make your hardwood floors look especially dull. To prevent this, clean hardwood floors once a week as a general rule of thumb, advises Lou Manfredini, an expert at Ace Hardware. "Of course, quick cleanup for spills is important. Letting liquids sit on wood floors for too long can damage the planks," he says.

Another factor to consider when determining how often to clean hardwood floors? Your household's foot traffic—and that's especially true if you have kids or pets. "The more foot traffic, the faster dirt, grime, and pet hair build up on your floors," says Gagliardi. If you regularly have buildup on your floors, deep clean the hardwood floors every two to four weeks."

Types of Hardwood Floors

There are several types of hardwood floors to choose from in your home: solid wood, parquet, engineered, laminate, and vinyl. While they may look similar, each one is made differently—amd some aren't true wood at all.

dark brown hardwood flooring
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Solid Wood

This type can be everything from strip to plank flooring that is cut entirely from one solid piece of wood, says Leah Bradley, the senior brand manager of retail at Bona. "With solid wood flooring, no other material is incorporated and it can be sanded or re-finished multiple times. Many hardwood floors last 100-plus years," she says. "While solid wood is durable, it is a natural material, so it can succumb to water damage or environmental changes (particularly if it's not correctly finished)."

light parquet wood flooring
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Parquet uses smaller pieces of solid wood to form a floor pattern. "Because it is real, solid wood, it generally performs the same as a plank wood floor. It can be refinished or sanded and has a long lifespan," says Bradley.

gray engineered wood flooring
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Engineered wood is durable, but not as durable as solid wood; it can also be damaged by water and wear. Engineered flooring consists of several different plies of wood glued together with the grains running in different directions. "The surface consists of a wear layer that can typically be sanded, but only a few times," says Bradley. "We recommend a wear layer of engineered floor that is at least 3/16 inches thick, providing enough thickness for one to two full sandings if needed."

laminate flooring
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Laminate floors are made of a synthetic material—not true wood. This type is also usually created with a core board with by a melamine wear layer on top, says Bradley.

gray vinyl flooring
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Vinyl is made from plastic, which is why it's the most water-resistant of these materials. Like laminate, vinyl is not wood—but it can be made to look like it. This type also typically has a longer lifespan, says Bradley. The downside? "Laminate and vinyl cannot be refinished like wood to change color or sheen," she adds.

mop on wood floors
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How to Clean Hardwood Floors

You should avoid harsh substances when cleaning any type of hardwood floor, says Manfredini. "While your grandmother may have used vinegar and water to clean [hardwood floors], vinegar is an acid and long-term use will dull the floors," he says. Instead, use other natural-based solutions, like Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner. "Just spray, allow to stand for two minutes, and then mop it up," Manfredini says. "No rinsing required."

Materials You'll Need

  • Broom or vacuum
  • Multi-surface cleaner
  • Disinfecting cloths
  • Microfiber mop
  • Hardwood floor cleaner

Follow these expert-approved steps to clean your hardwood floors:

  1. To begin, Gagliardi suggests sweeping or vacuuming with a hard floor attachment to remove any loose dirt from the hardwood floors.
  2. After this step, combine 1/4 cup of Pine-Sol Multi-Surface Cleaner with a gallon of water.
  3. Mop wood floors with this solution (just make sure to avoid creating a liquid pool since this can warp and streak the floor).
  4. "Use a conventional mop (a mop with hands-free wringing makes the job even easier) or you can use a microfiber mop," Gagliardi says.
  5. To clean and disinfect your floors in one step, you can also try Clorox Disinfecting Wet Mopping Cloths to trap particles, dirt, and hair.

How to Remove Scratches

If you have any scratches on your hardwood floors, fill or color in the floors with stain sticks, like Dap Plastic Wood Red Wood Blend Sticks, says Manfredini. "It will not be perfect, but it will be an improvement on what you have," he says. "If the scratches are in the finish, you can apply a new coating yourself over the entire floor."

To do this, remove all furniture from the room; after cleaning the floor, apply a finish coating, like Rejuvenate High Gloss Wood Floor Restorer Liquid, following the manufacturer's instructions. While there are a variety of finishes, the satin option is best, Manfredini says.

refinishing hardwood floor with stain
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How to Remove Stains

It is just as simple to remove stains from your hardwood floors—but this process depends on the state of your floor finish. "If your floor finish is in good condition, you can use full-strength Pine-Sol Multi-Surface Cleaner to remove stains," Gagliardi says.

Follow Gagliardi's steps on how to remove stains from hardwood floors:

  1. Apply the solution with a sponge or cloth on the stain.
  2. From there, use a toothbrush or sponge to scrub the stain, and then rinse the area with water.
  3. "Stains in areas where the finish has worn away, if severe, may require sanding, re-staining, and refinishing the floor, which requires a professional," she adds. Polishing and waxing can also add some shine and help minimize the scratches that could occur on your hardwood floors. To do this, Gagliardi says you will need to pick a product that is specifically made for hardwood.
  4. Next, simply follow the steps as outlined above on how to clean hardwood floors and then polish following the manufacturer's instructions.

How to Keep Hardwood Floors Clean

If you want your floors to stay clean for as long as possible, start using doorway mats; these keep dust and other debris off the hardwood, says Bradley. A no-shoe policy will also eliminate dirt and grime, she notes. "A quick round with a dust mop or tackling spills in-the-moment will allow more time between cleanings," says Bradley.

How to Preserve the Quality of Hardwood Floors

The best way to keep your hardwood floors in their best condition is by minding the material and not getting them too wet. "Flooring surfaces like vinyl, laminate, and parquet are typically non-porous but also (generally) not waterproof," says Bradley. "These surfaces look like wood, but aren't wood and can 'hold' grease and grime more than a wood surface." To avoid damage, always use a cleaning solution formulated for the surface.

While properly sealed solid or engineered wood floors are the most durable types, they still require particular care to preserve their quality. "Avoid too much water and always use a gentle cleaning solution formulated for wood," says Bradley. "Cleaning formulas made for laminate or vinyl or general all-purpose cleaners are too harsh for the wood floor."

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